Neurontin and Opiates in Treatment Centers
As if the opioid epidemic could get any worse, the use of opioids along with Gabapentin is responsible for the latest string of prescription drug overdoses. Gabapentin is the chemical name for a narcotic drug used to manage pain symptoms which accompany sleep and anxiety disorders. The drug is recognized under different brand names, with Neurontin being the most commonly prescribed version. Neurontin and opiates each have a purposeful use within rehabilitation, but the combination of these prescription drugs creates a deadly concoction.
What is Gabapentin Used For?
Off-label use of Gabapentin for purposes other than what is listed on the label is one reason treatment centers need to screen for Gabapentin abuse. It is not a “miracle-drug”; rather, Gabapentin is only intended to disguise bodily discomfort.
The drug is not a long-term solution for dealing with chronic pain. This is not to say Gabapentin is without merit, though. Gabapentin is especially helpful in managing symptoms of central nervous system ailments like Shingles and Restless Leg Syndrome.
Gabapentin Use Statistics
- 13% of victims who died from an opioid-related overdose were found to have Gabapentin in their systems.
- Gabapentin treats chronic pain in patients without binding to opioid receptors in the brain, which is one reason for its popularity.
- 1 in 25 adults uses Gabapentin at least once per year. This equals approximately 13 million U.S. residents, more than the entire population of Illinois.
- Gabapentin use in the United States skyrocketed after 2008, which may or may not imply a surge in drug use following the stock market crash in the same year.
- Gabapentin ranks in 7th place among the most prescribed medications in the country. It is one of the cheapest prescription pills on the market, averaging a cost of less than one dollar per pill.
- In 2014, Pfizer Greenstone, LLC lost a $325 million lawsuit as a result of illegal drug marketing contributing to off-label prescriptions of patented Neurontin pills. 10 years earlier, the drug goliath agreed to pay $430 million because of attempts to monopolize the production and distribution of Neurontin.
- The worst case of Gabapentin abuse to date involved a military beneficiary who was hospitalized after ingesting almost 300 Gabapentin pills in one sitting. Her symptoms of Gabapentin abuse were described as “minor sedation” and “nausea”. Shortly before the incident, she received a single prescription of more than 1000 Gabapentin pills.
Gabapentin and opiates are being manufactured at an alarming rate, so it’s no coincidence these drugs are being taken together. Neurontin and opiates should rarely (if ever) be prescribed concurrently, as the risk of respiratory depression leading to death outweighs any perceived benefit.
Symptoms of Gabapentin Abuse
Patients who abuse Gabapentin with other drugs need to be closely monitored by substance abuse professionals because of the high risk of addiction to the substance. Obvious symptoms of Gabapentin abuse include:
- Suicidal thoughts
- Increased talkativeness
- Panic attacks
Neurontin and Opiates in Treatment Centers
Studies show Gabapentin on its own is not inherently addictive. However, when Gabapentin and opiates or benzodiazepines are used together, Gabapentin acts as a catalyst by intensifying the effects of other medication. Opioids are addictive enough as they are, so strengthening their potency via Gabapentin may be lethal.
Reports suggest Gabapentin abuse is highest within rehabilitation clinics and correctional detention centers. Neurontin and opiates are cheaply produced and highly coveted, which is why Gabapentin use must be carefully observed. Gabapentin drug testing in treatment centers can also help:
- Prevent illicit diversion of Neurontin and opiates between inpatients
- Monitor compliance in patients who have a legitimate need to use Gabapentin
- Determine if Gabapentin and opiates are being combined to prevent the risk of fatal overdose, which would be disastrous for the reputation of the rehab center
Neurontin Abuse Potential
Gabapentin pills are very cheap to produce and exist en masse, so it’s crucial to ensure this drug stays in the hands of the intended patient.
People with the greatest likelihood of becoming addicted to Gabapentin include:
- The elderly
- Patients with weakened immunity
- Patients with comorbid health conditions
- Recovering opioid abusers
It should be noted, however, that even healthy adults are in danger of misusing this drug, especially when Neurontin and opiates are combined.
Is Gabapentin an Opioid?
Gabapentin is often mistaken as being an opioid, but in actuality, it is a non-opioid-based narcotic.
Gabapentin has common chemical properties and delivers similar side effects as opioid medication, but the drug affects different receptors in the brain. While opioids bind to opioid receptors, Gabapentin acts on GABA receptors.
Both opioids and Gabapentin are used to achieve pain relief, sedation, and mind-altering “euphoria”; however, they should only be combined in very rare circumstances.
Gabapentin for Opioid Withdrawal
Drugs used for opiate withdrawal therapy in sober living homes and treatment centers often include naltrexone and suboxone. Gabapentin should not be prescribed alongside these medications when attempting to wean someone from addictive behavior because the co-occurrence of these drugs enhances side effects to a point where a new addiction might be imminent.
Gabapentin Drug Interactions
Gabapentin should never be combined with the following drugs. When gabapentin interacts with any of the following substances, the risk factors outweigh the predicted benefits of treatment:
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
- Ibuprofen (Aspirin)
- Propoxyphene (PPX)
- Buprenorphine (BUP)
The combination of Neurontin and opiates, benzodiazepines, and over the counter medicines is the most common cause of respiratory depression leading to opioid overdose in the United States.
Stop Gabapentin Abuse Before it Occurs
Patients who seek treatment for a drug abuse problem put full trust into their substance abuse counselors. The last thing rehabilitation experts want is to exacerbate a patient’s addiction because they failed to implement the tools necessary to ensure recovery. Gabapentin abuse can be identified with instant gabapentin drug tests for professionals who need to take every precaution against drug abuse.